I have been writing art criticism for almost twelve years. The vast majority of my reviews have focused on the work of painters, sculptors, printmakers, photographers, fabric artists, ceramicists, furniture makers, and the occasional video artist. All share a common trait, in that whether the work is contemplative, utilitarian or decorative or some mix thereof, they all exist in a primarily visual sphere.
That said, I have been asked to review theatrical and musical performances, comedy shows, ballet and other dance. I have always declined those requests as they fall, with a resounding thump, outside of my wheelhouse.
I once reviewed a three-person exhibition that included a dress on a mannequin and approached it as I would a painting. I considered composition, color, and narrative, concluding that I didn’t really understand a dress unless it was on a woman. And maybe not always then.
So what was I to do with ”Sound in Space, Sound in Place,” the audiocentric exhibition at the New Bedford Art Museum? My first thought was to dodge it and stay in my art school comfort zone. And then I took a deep breath.
The centerpiece of the show is “Cluster Fields” by John Driscoll and Phil Edelstein. The collaborative installation features sounds gathered from a myriad of sources, both biological and not, including those that emanated from seals and whales, courtesy of the William A. Watkins Collection of Marine Mammal Sound Recordings and Data, at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.
The installation traverses through interconnected rooms. Black plastic tubes as thick as boa constrictors merge with cantilevered globes of glass and curved shapes that look something like a pterodactyl or a nun’s stiff wimble, all suspended